Ghana: Is the NPP really Asante, and Asante truly NPP?

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Dec 24th, 2012
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By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

A truism is that Ghanaian politics is heavily influenced by ethnic sentiments (call it tribalism).Over the years, the ebb and flow of national and local politics indicates the extent to which ethnicity has dominated our attitude to politics. It may be for weal or for woe.

Regardless of how we view the 2012 elections, ethnic or tribal sentiments played a huge role in the success of the NDC and failure of the NPP. President Mahama’s appeal to the conscience of his fellow Northerners for their votes on the strength of his being a Northerner did something good for the NDC while Akufo-Addo’s “Yen Akanfuo” detracted from the NPP’s standing. Let’s be blunt about it.

For the NPP, this defeat has other causes, which is why the party has rejected the elections and is gearing up to seek redress at the Supreme Court. That’s a long story on its own. But there is a shorter story that the NPP is not telling us.

One major problem that makes it difficult for the NPP to shed off its stigma as an “Akan” party is the mentality that shapes and shaves the attitude of its followers. More often than not, any criticism of the NPP is regarded by the party’s supporters as a direct attack on Asantes, which worries me, not because it is true or because I agree with it but because of its tendency to worsen the NPP’s outreach efforts. It is a gross misrepresentation to be condemned.

I think that every sane person will separate a political party from an ethnic group; but as the NPP’s followers do otherwise, they push their party further into the abyss. They need to see our criticism of the party for what it is and separate the party from a particular ethnic group so as to move it beyond the narrow confines that have defined its political path all these years. I wonder where this mentality came from or whether it can be tackled; but it is damaging the party’s interests all the more.

As the main opposition party, and judging from the overdrive into which its leaders have gone as a result of their losing the 2012 elections, it beats my understanding why none among them will see this problem as worrisome enough to address. Not until they do so, they will continue to blame others for nothing when they lose the general elections.

I present below, unedited, the comments from two readers to lay the foundation for my analysis of this problem:

Response Number 1

Mr Bokor the Akans hater and Northners lover. Michael but Ewes can’t live in peace with the few nortners in your region, heh? Michael, Akans split their votes between the NPP and NDC hence the NDC was able to claim a victory. Ewes on the other hand vote 99.9% for NDC a Rawlings party. If Ewes hate Akans so much why are they still carrying Akan names such as Aboagye, Mante etc etc.

Response Number 2

Fellow Ghanaian, keep on deceiving yourself with theories and at the end you will have yourself to blame. Ashantis are never Ewes and will never be like them, we have a kingdom envied by inward looking people like you. You always complain about the lives and doings of the Ashantis but never take the trouble to eradicate yourselves from poverty and primitive living, your minds are static as flags mounted on the Moon planet-never changes or fall.

You blame the Ashantis for all your predicaments.

Fellow Ghanaian or Migrant just imagine, if all Ashantis or Akans were to be Fools and  vote as the Ewes do  in elections, do  you ever think the NDC will  win any election in Ghana? You people should rather thank your stars for having objective, tolerant and civilized Ethnicity as the Akans in majority in Ghana.The behavior of the non-Akans really help them to dominate in GHANA.

In any civilized elections people vote on issues but in Ghana the idiots -EWES see them as opportunity to show their animosity for the Ashantis, but please note, in this time of Globalization, Political power is meaningless, economic power is the order of the day, and this brains are used and not one man one vote. After more than 2 decades of voting the NDC, what had been achieved by the Region? ONLY FOOLS WHO NEVER CHANGES THEIR MINDS.

My Comments

Without any doubt, these sentiments may be coming from people we may consider as simple-minded, but they carry weight, especially if viewed against what we know about the NPP setup itself.

We have had good cause to question that mentality all to no avail. Many factors account for this problem. Apparently it is caused and reinforced by a natural affinity that is not difficult to fathom but difficult to eradicate because it is the stuff of which these party activists are made. Second, it is either overtly expressed/displayed/ manifested or covertly managed to evade easy detection and used as a mere political bait to attract undiscerning people.

I am talking about the tendency of NPP followers to equate any criticism of their party and its cause to a direct attack on their ethnic origin. I am particularly cognizant of this tendency because of the numerous personal e-mails that I have received from the NPP supporters who have read my opinion pieces and responded to them, coming across in a frontal attack on my ethnic extraction.

What I am trying to say is that NPP supporters of Akan extraction fail to divorce any criticism of their party from its Akan base to know that those of us expressing critical opinions of the party don’t do so because we want to attack Akans. I, for instance, have concentrated my critical assessment of the NPP on it as a party, not as a configuration of an Asante ethnic identity. The party, to me, is not the same as the ethnic group, although it is mostly dominated by those coming across as Akans.

It reminds me of the pointed question that Emperor Constantine asked the leaders of the Christian Church at the Conference of Nicea: Is Jesus the same as God or is he the son of God? A fine separates both entities. Transferring this fine line issue to our situation, will we say that the NPP is really Asante and Asante truly NPP?

Of course, I have several times condemned the failure of the NPP leaders to go beyond the narrow scope of presenting the NPP as an Akan-based party, drawing inferences from the very origin of the NPP (beginning in Kumasi as the Danquah/Busia Club in early 1992 and growing to become the full-fledged political party that it has been ever since).

I am not alone. Others have raised arguments to suggest that by its very nature and composition, the NPP is Akan-based. They are right in several senses. The party has always been dominated by the Asante-Akyim bigwigs; and the government it formed to rule from January 7, 2001 to January 7, 2009 had a huge presence of those with Akan roots.

Indeed, Kufuor packed his government with those of Akan extraction to the disadvantage of the other ethnicities. Furthermore, he over-zealously projected the Asantehene above all other paramount chiefs and gave juicy appointments to members of his close family, political, and ethnic networks. When public outcry against his style of governance, largely skewed by cronyism and ethnicity, he justified it by telling us when composing his Cabinet that he didn’t find anybody from the Upper West Region worthy of being included in that Cabinet.

We have not seen much reconfiguration of the NPP to show that it has changed for the better. That problem has been compounded by Akufo-Addo’s unguarded statement branding the NPP as solely disposed toward the “Yen Akanfuo.” Regardless of any damage-control measures implemented to solve the problem, it has defied solution ever since, and was one major factor that worked against the NPP at the just-ended polls. The NPP repeated its shoddy performance nationwide, winning only the two regions that are perceived as its traditional strongholds in the Akan enclave of the citizenry.

Our criticism of the NPP along this line has nothing to do with any intention to denigrate the ethnic groups that the NPP has made its goldmine to exploit for political capital. We try to separate the NPP (as a political party) from the people it seeks to mine (Asantes, Kwahus, Bonos, Ahafos, and what-have-you that constitute the Akan ethnic group, among others).

We acknowledge the fact that the broad Akan ethnic group extends beyond Asantes and Kwahus, etc., and ensure that our criticism of the NPP doesn’t focus on any particular Asante or Kwahu personality.

Unfortunately, however, responses from NPP supporters indicate that they see my condemnatory remarks against the NPP as an attack on specific ethnic groups, especially Asantes. I am not sure how these people reason, but I see it as part of the main problems that continue to dent the NPP’s image.

The tendency to see the NPP as Asante and to jump on anybody who criticizes it is a major problem for the NPP’s leaders to address if the party should be given a new coloration and positive public image. But as the situation stands now, I don’t see what they can do as they continue to add more problems to this one.

No wonder, Akufo-Addo himself set everything in stone with his “Yan Akanfuo” declaration, which has become an entrenched albatross that cannot be easily removed. I am motivated to express these opinions by two responses that I have received from two NPP supporters who reacted to my opinion piece on why the NPP’s court case won’t help it gain political power.

To those who think that my criticism of the NPP is a direct affront to their Asante identity, I can only say you are lost. I consider the NPP as a political party and will criticize it as such. After all, those thinking that the NPP is nothing but an Asante entity can continue to hold such opinions and behave as such, being condescending to members of the other ethnic groups and feeling superior to them.

There is a heavy price to pay for this posturing, though, as the results of the 2008 and 2012 elections reveal. Unless the NPP leaders are satisfied with their party’s inability to overcome these self-created problems, they should be girding their loins to do what will make their party have a true national appeal and become more attractive. The NDC is poles ahead because it is what it is. The NPP is not and will not be for as long as its members hold such poor opinions as I have discussed here.

I shall return…

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